Parents can find comfort in modern technology. Whereas “in the olden days,” letting children and teens go out into the night might have caused parents extreme worry and anxiety, today parents can keep in touch with their kids 24/7 through mobile phones. Of course, there’s still no guarantee that all is well, but the ability to check in does provide some peace of mind.
But what if your child doesn’t answer his or her cell phone? Should parents become immediately alarmed? Does not picking up mean that your child is in danger or hiding something?
Not always! There are many possible reasons why a child might not answer a parent’s call. The following are some of these reasons, alongside tips on how parents can handle the situation:
Your Child is Not Mindful of the Phone
Although this one is rare, it is still something to be considered: some kids are so attached to their cell phone, it’s practically welded to their palm. But there are also children who barely pay attention to their mobile, and merely have it on silent or vibrate mode somewhere in their bag. If your child is not expecting a call from you, it’s not unlikely that he or she just didn’t bother to check if anyone is calling.
If this is the case, the best thing for parents to do is to advise their child that they plan to ring, so that the child knows to always keep his or her phone handy.
It’s Not Convenient for Your Child to Answer the Phone
Sometimes, it’s just not the right place or time to answer the phone. Your child can be inside the cinema with friends, out in the field playing football, or crossing the street on a busy road. In the same way that you can’t be expected to answer your phone during these times, it’s unreasonable to expect your child to accommodate you.
What’s best is to ask your child where he or she is going so that you will know if ringing is advisable. If you know your child’s itinerary, then you would know when to ring. True, your child can always lie about the location in order to avoid your calls. But this is also a great exercise in trusting your child. Unless your child has a history of lying about his or her whereabouts, there’s really no reason not to take what your child says at face value.
You can also establish a rule on call backs. For example, you can contract with your child an agreement to call back within 30 minutes of a missed call. With such a rule in place, you won’t immediately panic when you don’t get a response. Of course, the 30 minute rule won’t necessarily solve the problem if your child is out watching a movie with friends, but it can still be helpful in most cases.
Your Child Already Knows That He or She is in Trouble
Sometimes kids don’t answer their cell phone because they sense that you are probably already angry at the other end of the line. If they’re out way after their curfew for example, it’s possible that they would avoid responding to your calls to avoid further stress.
If this is the case, explain to your child the effect of their behavior on you. Sometimes, kids don’t realize that parental anger is born out of being worried sick and fearing the worst. Tell them that whatever their offense may be, it would still be outweighed by relief in confirming that they are well and safe. Emphasize how answering your call at all times is a must.
In order to encourage your child to answer even when he or she is past curfew, be careful to avoid raging and unpleasant criticism. When your child answers be calm, polite and concerned. Take up discipline issues the next day, when everyone is awake and relaxed.
Your Child is Embarrassed to Answer the Phone
It’s also possible that your child is embarrassed to be seen talking to a parent. This is especially likely during the teenage years when kids are experimenting with their identity and their autonomy. Peers can tease them about always being “on a tight leash” or “being a mamma’s boy.” When this happens, your child may prefer to switch off his or her mobile rather than be caught talking to a parent.
Parents who are respectful of their kids’ feelings will have better communication and cooperation in the long run. Therefore, show understanding if your child claims to be embarrassed. Ask your child to suggest reasonable solutions. Keep in mind that teenagers are almost grown up and like grownups, they don’t want someone checking up on them every few hours. Perhaps you should be using the phone only for true emergencies and not to find out where your child is and what he is up to. Let your child go out and come home – don’t call! However, if your child is young or inexperienced, you can ask that he or she calls you when he or she arrives safely at a destination. For older teens, this isn’t necessary. In short, avoid acting like your child needs excessive supervision unless the child has already shown you through repetitive irresponsible behavior that this is truly the case. If your child has already established a track record of reasonable behavior, responsibility and appropriate maturity – let him or her go out and have a good time. There’s no need to call.